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Fireworks or Hanabi in Japan was said to have originated between 1603 and 1867 when one of King James’ subordinates and a merchant from China gave them as a gift for the shogunate ruler, Tokugawa Ieyasu. The shogun liked them right away paving the way for the fireworks’ popularity in Edo (now known as Tokyo).
Fireworks are of historic significance in Japan. Fireworks were lit on the Sumida river to honor the victims of plagues and the cholera epidemic in the country in 1733. It was also believed that the fireworks inhibit the presence of evil spirits. For the Japanese people, these delightful and colorful streaks of lights symbolizes hope and harmony amongst them. Now, over a hundred fireworks displays are being held all throughout Japan, especially during the summer months in July and August. As a matter of fact, on the 1st day of July in the year 2020, Japan has launched a simultaneous fireworks display in a unified prayer to end the Covid-19 pandemic. The organizers of the activity have been planning the event privately since they aim to avoid spectators from gathering.
The fireworks display depends on the event, however most hanabi will last up to 2 hours. Japanese fireworks are truly immaculate sparklers in the sky. They are usually packed in a circular shell which could reach about 1.2 meter in diameter and would weigh more than a hundred kilograms. In the latest years, fireworks have become more sophisticated, incorporating cartoon characters, shapes and illustrations and vivid colors. Aside from the highly awaited fireworks display, a wide variety of festival dishes will also be presented during hanabi festivals. Food stalls will be lined up by spectators aiming to grab a snack while enjoying the view in the sky. Many people wearing yukatas can be seen all throughout the day. Aside from that, the race to claim the best place to view the fireworks is on. During some of these events, paid viewing seats can be reserved in advance. If you don’t want to pay for the premium viewing spots, make sure to come early on the site in order for you to get a spot.
Below are some of the popular Hanabi festivals in Japan.
Sumida River Fireworks Festival
Held every last Saturday of July, this festival is considered as the oldest and most popular fireworks display in Japan. The festival originated in the 18th century to pray for the drought season to end and to avert bad spirits. Now, a million people would gather near the Sumida river to witness the fascinating fireworks brought by competing pyrotechnic teams that shows off the uniqueness of each of their fireworks. Experience the holistic experience of the festival by wearing a yukata along with thousands of people. Food stalls offering traditional festival foods lined the streets and restaurants around the area joined as they prepared outdoor seats for their customers. The spectators can view more than 20,000 fireworks launched from two locations: around Sakura Bridge and around the Komagata Bridge area.
Nagaoka Fireworks Festival
The festival is held every 2nd to 3rd day of August along the Shinano River. This is the biggest fireworks display in Japan with giant sanshakudama fireworks together with more than 20,000 other fireworks. The festival is being held to mourn the victims of World War II. Be prepared to be moved by the colossal fireworks display. The sky is engulfed with different colors and vibrant sparkles. The reconstruction of the phoenix-shaped firework is the most awaited part of the event. To be able to get the best seat, you can reserve ahead as early as May to purchase the tickets. In addition to the fireworks show, you may also take a stroll along the riverbanks and watch the floating lanterns in the river and folk dancers joining the procession.
Omagari Fireworks Festival
This festival is also a national competition for pyrotechnicians to show off their skills and claim the title as the best fireworks in Japan. The venue of the fireworks display is only a 30-minute walk from Omagari Station and is held every last Saturday of August. The criteria for judging sits upon the colors, unique shapes and creativity. The competition has two parts: the daytime and night time fireworks. In addition to the excitement is the Wide Star Mine fireworks which are tuned in accompaniment of music. The Omagari event is known as the origin of inventive fireworks which the Japanese are very much proud of.
The momentary beauty of the fireworks leaves amazement at that exact time you experienced it. It’s being awed at that singular moment that when it passes, you will never feel the same pleasure. Especially if you are watching the best fireworks in Japan. Visit Japan now and fulfill one of your wish lists to experience grand fireworks shows and summer festivals in one.